Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Over the River…

At one time not too long ago, visiting family or friends for any special occasion -- including Christmas -- meant literally traveling over the river and through the woods. Gathering for events such as a wedding, funeral or house raising was a chore and involved the bad combination of primitive transportation and extremely poor roads.

Most of us were raised with idyllic images of children singing carols from a sleigh as riders were whisked through the cold toward their festive destination. Such images were extremely misleading. Travel was brutal, particularly in climates which experienced cold weather, ice and snow. One-horse open sleighs were slow going and unpleasant.

Even today travel can be difficult. The least challenging trip to grandmother's house is by car over decent roads. Gasoline prices fluctuate daily but are usually subject to increases just prior to major holidays. If gas remains at $3.30 (plus or minus), it can be costly to fill up the ol' SUV and head out for a visit. Roads are problematical as well, especially freeways and interstate highways which are often choked with vehicles on a similar pursuit. Hopefully drivers have called ahead to confirm there is no major road construction or inclement weather forecast.

Way back in the middle of the last century, flying was actually enjoyable. Until the late 1980s, taking a trip by plane was something of a luxury. Passengers were treated to a certain amount of respect. This is hard to believe today. It was as though the airline employees and crew were grateful to travelers who chose their airline. The flight attendants served a meal, offered reading material or headsets, and generally were polite. Today's air travelers are lucky to get from Point A to Point B without sitting on the tarmac for hours or having the flight delayed or canceled altogether. Conditions have deteriorated dramatically. Anyone who has flown in recent years will appreciate two basic results of their trip: arrival at their destination and eventual receipt of their luggage. It has come down to that.

Having been raised in a family of railroaders, I still have fond memories of train travel and take the train whenever it is convenient. During the 20th century train travel lost public support in favor of car travel. Inevitable, perhaps, but millions of miles of train track was ripped up and disposed of during the 1970s, performed much too haphazardly. The increasing use of trains for moving commodities and passengers continues to surprise the public. Train travel is up in recent years as an excellent alternative in certain parts of the country.

So if you are about to embark on holiday travel, plan ahead. First ask yourself: Is this trip really necessary?

Happy Holidays.

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